When we moved from the big house it was because someone forgot to check on things and suddenly the lease on the land which had been 99 years long was...up, so the house and land reverted back to the descendants of the original owner. Drastic news for my parents, they had only a couple of weeks to rehouse their family, so we ended up in a terraced cottage with no electricity connected, no bathroom and cockroaches carpeting the floors like shiny black linoleum. It was a massive shock for my mother as she struggled to make a home for us. My dad chopped-up the piano to make her a display bookcase and every Friday evening the zinc bath was unhooked from a wall outside in the yard, brought in by the fire and filled with buckets of water heated in an old boiler, for her to take the first bath. It can only have been huge disappointment to her, she'd been brought up in a family who had been used to servants.
My sister who was twelve years older than me and was used to her own room in the big house, now had to share her space with me, a five year old. But, how glad we were of each others company, on those first few nights when the candles were blown out, leaving only a night-light in it's saucer of water flickering in the cold darkness and there began a wailing and crying coming through the walls from our next door neighbours. Banging on the adjoining wall was our neighbour's adult son suffering, we were told later from schizophrenia, he couldn't sleep because of the voices, but in the dark strangeness of this old cottage it seemed like we had moved into Bedlam itself. The stairs ran adjacent to each other in the terrace and we later heard the old man from the other side stumbling up his staircase talking and talking to himself, we were hemmed in by people who had lost their minds its seemed.
Some weeks later after he had been taken away to a hospital we learnt the story of our neighbours son, he'd been jilted at the altar by his fiancée, and back in 1954 they knew very little about schizophrenia and the connection severe stress can play in its development.
We never did find out anything at all about our neighbour the other side, apart from the fact that he was an old man living alone, who shunned contact, he never spoke to anyone except his imaginary companions. His garden was a complete tangle of raspberry plants, so dense, that one day when I'd illicitly climbed over the wall separating our gardens so I could gorge on his luscious raspberries, crimson and jewel-like and all the more delicious in their pilfering, I was completely invisible to him when he trundled along the path with not more than a couple of yards between us, still having an animated conversation with his invisible companions.